Tag Archives: funding applications

Project Funding Application Tips – 3

This is the third in my ongoing (though irregular) series of posts on Project Funding Application Tips (see here and here for previous posts).  They are tips that I’ve come up with after reviewing an awful lot of applications for a variety of funds.

  1. I can’t believe I have to say this but leave your cutesy bios on your website (if you must).  I don’t care if you like rainbows and kitty cats and rock climb in your spare time.  I want to know if you have the necessary skills and experience to do the job.
  2. If your website is going to have a lot of videos and some of them will be exclusive and some of them will be edited footage from the television show (e.g. bloopers), the budget for video cannot be assessed unless the evaluator has an idea of how many videos will be original and how many will be edited.  Even a ballpark will help.
  3. If something that you want to produce is going to be more expensive than normal ranges, you have to explain, in detail, why it will be more expensive.  Without that explanation some evaluators will cut the budget and/or the amount funded while others will reject an application completely.  Whatever the reason for the higher expense – sell it.  If it is a digital project and the higher expense is due to more content then you have to explain just how much content will be produced. If it is a drama and the cast is huge that should be obvious in the scripts but there will be other cost categories that will not be so obvious and they need explanation.
  4. If you are applying for funding for a second or later season, don’t assume that the evaluators are familiar with your show.  An episode of the earlier season is not enough.  You need to include a bible or other document that explains who the characters are and a summary of what happened in each previous season, particularly if there are story arcs that relate to the current season’s story.  It’s hard to evaluate creative when you don’t have any clue what’s going on.
  5. Comedy is hard but applying for funding for a comedy project is even harder.  Depending on the kind of comedy it might not come across from the script (I can remember laughing out loud while reading a goofy boys animation script but that’s rare).    Communicating the funny can be particularly hard when writing an outline or a concept document.  Short clips can go a long way to communicating the funny.  If you go that route though, make sure the clips really are funny.  They should also be well performed and edited so that the evaluator isn’t distracted by things that can be easily improved in production.
  6. Be consistent when applying to different funds.  While there may be different goals, eligibility requirements and guidelines between different funds the project should still be fundamentally the same.  If it isn’t there is a strong possibility that this will be noticed.  Yes, funders talk, especially when a project is complicated or brings up unique issues.  They also sometimes use the same evaluators so you always run the risk of someone saying ‘hey, I saw this project when it applied over here and it was different’.  Don’t do that.
  7. Speaking of other applications, if you are making multiple applications be sure to have the right name on your documents.  Make sure that your cover letter does not say ‘Dear Andra’ if it is going to the Shaw Rocket Fund.  Change the footer from ‘CMF Experimental’ to ‘Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund’.  Seriously – I’ve seen this mistake made.
  8. When you are applying to multiple agencies be careful about trying to shoehorn the same documents into each application.  Make sure that you address the needs of each application separately.  Funders want to know that you have taken the time and attention to focus on their guidelines and addressed their requirements.  Sometimes its just confusing when you give a funder information that they haven’t asked for.

 

 

 

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Funding Application Tips – Partnerships

I probably should have done this post on Partnerships before last week’s post on how not to screw up your funding application but there you go.  I’m doing it now.

One of the biggest ways that a project can fail (in general, not just with funding applications) is in picking the right partners to work on the project.  This is co-producers or digital media and television producers or creative partners.  The same rules/guidelines apply.

Audio-visual media is a collective work.  None of us can create (high quality commercial) film, television and digital media on our own.  We need to work with other people to bring complimentary skills together to get the end product completed.  I think that we all understand that a screenwriter, producers, director, actors and crew are needed to produce but this also applies to the producer.  Sometimes it is skills that are needed, for example when a smaller production company or series creators partner with a more experienced production company to take on a bigger challenge.  Sometimes it is financing as when a Canadian production company partners with a treaty co-production partner.  And then there are the partnerships between formats when a tv producer partners with a digital media producer to create affiliated digital media content for a television program.

Early on in my career I learned a few key rules on partnerships from a tv producer who became a broadcaster and then a winemaker and is back to being a broadcaster.  I like to sum them up as ‘can you get drunk with your intended partner?’  It may seem frivolous but bear with me.   You get drunk with people you like (most of us do anyway).  Production is hard and you should only do such hard work with people you like and trust, can talk to and feel that you can rely on.  This means spending time with people and getting to know them before signing an agreement.  Put the relationship ahead of the deal.

How do you do that?  Meet lots of people and companies before decided which one you want to work with.  Attend markets and conferences where you can meet a lot of people (and socialize with them!).  Talk to your friends and colleagues about their experiences with those companies.  Yesterday I told a story about the reactions of two different companies to an event that I was trying to set up and the person I told it to heard the story as more evidence that one company was a better potential partner for her than the other company.  It wasn’t the point of my story but it definitely informed her opinion about which one she would rather work with.

It is more than likeability and ethics though.  What you look for in a partner depends on what you need but you need to be certain that your partner has it and isn’t just BS’ing you or entertaining magical thinking about their abilities.  That’s the due diligence part that you have to do.   Can they bring that financing to the table – check out their past projects.  Can they produce the digital media component – check out their past projects.  Do they have the distribution skills or marketing skills that you lack – check out their team.  Right now possibly the biggest problem in convergent media production is tv producers partnering with digital media companies who do not have the skills and experience to produce what the tv producers are looking for.   For example, if a convergent project is going to be about developing and supporting the television audience with content then a digital media shop that has only created websites that sell products will not have the necessary skills.   The result, if it can be funded, just may be garbage.

If you don’t know the sector that you’re exploring for a partner then consider hiring a consultant who works in that area to help you find potential partners.  Yes, it does sound like hiring a matchmaker but it can work.  Some organizations are partnering with other organizations to facilitate matchmaking, for example WIFT’s Digiscape in partnership with CMPA, CWC and Interactive Ontario.   Go to funders’ websites and check out what they’ve funded and who produced it.

OK, so you’ve found your dream date, now what?  An effective partnership comes out of both parties clearly understanding the strengths that each bring to the partnership, the roles they will each perform and being completely on the same page about what is being produced.  You can do this in a co-production or services agreement but you also need one or more meetings where you can talk about the big picture and all the little details that it will take to get there.  I cannot tell you how often I have been able to see in a funding application that partners appear to have completely different ideas about what they are producing.   An effective partnership involves constant communication – which of course isn’t difficult because you do like each other, right?  [see above re getting drunk together]   You do not carve up the responsibilities and go off and do your thing, assuming that your partner is off in their corner doing their thing and somehow magically it will all get put together and end up being fantastic!

Ideally you want to have such a fantastic working relationship with your partner that you can work with them again and avoid all of this hard finding your partner work.

Project Funding Application Tips

I have been evaluating project funding applications for various funds for many years. You may find this an odd thing for a policy wonk to do but I’ve also been a producer of websites, was active in children’s television and was the business manager for a fund so have a wide-ranging set of skills that allow me to assess creative, business and marketing potential for projects. I’ve seen a lot of applications in my day and have a few tips that I’d like to share to make my life and yours easier. They apply to applications for television and digital funding applications.

  1. Read the guidelines. Read them again. Prepare your application and then double check the guidelines again. If you’re not sure about something, call the funder. They almost always are happy to talk to you though perhaps not on the deadline date.
  2. Every application requires a synopsis. This is a brief, one paragraph description. Forget the blah blah and focus on writing a tight, accurate description of the project that will set the stage for the rest of the material in the application. A properly written synopsis will set the tone for the rest of the application and strongly influence an evaluator’s attitude as they set out to read the rest of the application. Often the synopsis is the only creative that a jury or board member will read before they make a decision based on the evaluator’s recommendation.
  3. Do a search for exclamation marks and delete same. This didn’t used to be an issue but is increasing. I blame Twitter and texting. My daughter tells me that all adults overuse exclamation marks in texts and tweets. It may be becoming a bad habit. Don’t use them in funding applications but put your emphasis in your words! Otherwise it feels like you’re shouting at us! See what I did there?
  4. Spell check. Seriously. You have no idea how often the phrase ‘and I was irritated by all the typos’ comes up in an evaluation.
  5. If you are referring to past work as being ‘landmark’ or ‘groundbreaking’ or using other such ‘never been done before’ adjectives then it better be. Describing previous work as hugely innovative when it isn’t will just undermine your current application.
  6. Make sure that your budget reflects the work proposed. If the budget preparer is fully informed of the creative then this should not be a problem but sadly often is.
  7. If you haven’t figured out your story or your project then you are not ready to apply yet. Do not rush the application and try the ‘trust us, we’ll figure it out’ argument. If the words aren’t there on paper then the funder has no idea what it is being asked to fund and won’t.
  8. You need a business model, marketing plan, distribution plan. The funder needs to know that there is audience demand and a way to make money, even if the funder doesn’t take an equity position. If there is no international market or revenue potential but there are other goals then explain that. The goal of a funding agency is to build the industry and not just fund good ideas.
  9. Try very hard to avoid buzzwords. First, a buzzword has a limited lifespan and if you are new in the sector you could easily be using a buzzword that is no longer in use (e.g. mobisode) or has negative connotations often because of overuse (e.g. transmedia). If you must use a buzzword, use it properly and only when necessary.
  10. Make sure that the bios of your team show that you can do what you propose. If your main team is new or new at what you propose, hire a consultant with relevant experience. If you partner with a company to provide more experience make sure that your partner really can do what they say they can do. Include examples of relevant past work in your bios. Do not make the evaluators use google.
  11. Describe exactly what you plan to do with social media. Mentioning Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are not enough. You actually need a strategy and each strategy is different depending on the program and the audience.
  12. Use pictures, sketches, illustrations and mockups. You know, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words. The evaluator knows that they are just sketches, illustrations etc. to help communicate the idea but pictures do help communicate that visual idea. That means character sketches for animation, mockups and wireframes for websites but also stock images for live action characters and photos of possible locations or sets.

Hmm. I could go on but I think 12 are a good number for you to digest and think about. Most of these points are not going to make the difference between funding or no funding but they each in their own way can influence the evaluator’s assessment.